Changing the dose metric for inhalation toxicity studies: Short-term study in rats with engineered aerosolized amorphous silica nanoparticles
Inhalation toxicity and exposure assessment studies for nonfibrous particulates have traditionally been conducted using particle mass measurements as the preferred dose metric (i.e., mg or mu g/m(3)). However, currently there is a debate regarding the appropriate dose metric for nanoparticle exposure assessment studies in the workplace. The objectives of this study were to characterize aerosol exposures and toxicity in rats of freshly generated amorphous silica (AS) nanoparticles using particle number dose metrics (3.7 x 10(7) or 1.8 x 10(8) particles/cm(3)) for 1- or 3-day exposures. In addition, the role of particle size (d(50) = 37 or 83 nm) on pulmonary toxicity and genotoxicity endpoints was assessed at several postexposure time points. A nanoparticle reactor capable of producing, de novo synthesized, aerosolized amorphous silica nanoparticles for inhalation toxicity studies was developed for this study. SiO2 aerosol nanoparticle synthesis occurred via thermal decomposition of tetraethylorthosilicate (TEOS). The reactor was designed to produce aerosolized nanoparticles at two different particle size ranges, namely d(50) = similar to 30 nm and d(50) = similar to 80 nm; at particle concentrations ranging from 10(7) to 10(8) particles/cm(3). AS particle aerosol concentrations were consistently generated by the reactor. One- or 3-day aerosol exposures produced no significant pulmonary inflammatory, genotoxic, or adverse lung histopathological effects in rats exposed to very high particle numbers corresponding to a range of mass concentrations (1.8 or 86 mg/m(3)). Although the present study was a short-term effort, the methodology described herein can be utilized for longer-term inhalation toxicity studies in rats such as 28-day or 90-day studies. The expansion of the concept to subchronic studies is practical, due, in part, to the consistency of the nanoparticle generation method.